How Rude!

If you’ve done any research into German culture, you’ve likely come across blogs, articles and forum discussions on the subject of German directness. Less politically-correct results may even simply state that Germans are rude.

It’s a topic of discussion as old as time; or, at least, as old as the Internet’s mainstream popularity. There is a lot of material on the subject, and it all basically comes to the same conclusion: Germans aren’t rude; they’re just direct and honest. If you can’t handle it, you need to grow a thicker skin.

Small Talk: Why Germans Won’t Tell You How They Feel

One of the many clichés about Germany and the Germans says that they act in a not very friendly or even rude manner towards strangers. You might get that impression when you first come to Germany and try to get to know somebody else on a train, a bar or at work.

Especially as an American, you might be used to getting in contact with strangers really quickly. In Germany, you probably won’t. It is a scientifically proven fact that German people simply don’t chat in public places when they don’t know each other. But what is often interpreted as rude manners, is more like a basic inability of Germans to small talk – they simply are not used to it.

Funny side of the German language

False friends, ridiculous grammar and never-ending nouns. German is by no means an easy language. However, it has its funny side too, as we find out in this week’s episode of Meet the Germans.

YouTube comments:

“I love all the ‘thing’ words we have: Feuerzeug = fire thing (lighter) Fahrzeug = driving thing (vehicle) Spielzeug = play thing (toy) Werkzeug = craft/labour thing (tool) Or some of our animals: Nilpferd = nile horse (hippo) Nashorn = nose horn (rhino) Stachelschwein = spike pig (porcupine) Waschbär = wash bear (raccoon) Faultier = lazy animal (sloth) Schnabeltier = beak animal (platypus)”

“Yeah german gets a lot easier when you understand that most of these long words are just two short words connected.”

“I’m german and i got the impression that mostly negative things about the german language circulate the web, like it sounds rough, unfriendly, is difficult to learn and overly complicated. It’s really nice seeing it in a positive, funny and native way and i hope it helps foreigners to see it in a different light. We are and used to be famous for our writers and poets, so the language has to be fit for that kind of work and those people also benefitted the language in that regard. On the other hand we are famous for our engeneering and our scinetists so another major part of our language is logical, accurate and descriptive. Our language has multiple different layers which are often overlooked, quite understandably to be honest, and I think the german language is beautiful in its own, rough mantled way. :D”

“Hey, how are you?”

Observations of a young German woman in Cincinnati, Ohio in the U.S.

This comment gets it right: “My experience with small talk is that it starts light and superficial, but the longer it goes on, the more personal it gets. It’s as if both are sending out feelers to find out how deep (or long) the conversation is going to be and to make sure both can end it (or back off) at any time without things getting awkward.

The answer to ‘how are you’ (‘hey, what’s up?’ actually) is always expected to be short, but can be open ended to lead the other person to probe deeper if they wish, such as, ‘okay I guess, I got some stuff going on.’ The other person can back off and say, ‘yeah, I hear ya’ and change the subject if they don’t want to go deeper, or respond with, ‘really? what’s going on?’ if they want you to open up more. Like a verbal tennis match where each hit gets harder to see how intense the game will be. I’m not sure I phrased it right, but I think you catch my meaning.”


From DW – Let’s face it, we could all do with a bit of good luck this year. Rachel is on the hunt for lucky charms in Germany and finding out a bit about German happiness along the way. Is Germany a happy nation? What brings good or bad luck in Germany? And why is Rachel on a pig farm? Find out in this week’s Meet the Germans.

A teacher in German commented: “I’m actually studying to become a teacher and we intentionally wish the students “success” and not “good luck” because of the very reason you stated: we want them to feel like they can have an impact on the result by studying and not just being lucky.”

Another commend: “The secretary at the welcome desk in our university mentioned to me that the following day was her birthday, and I very innocently and enthusiastically said, “Alles Gute!”. I will never forget the almost terrifying face, the awkward silence, like I had committed a crime. “It’s not really good to wish someone happy birthday before the day,” she said. I had no idea. She tried to laugh it off, but her eyes looked seriously worried I carry the guilt to this day.”

German efficiency

Germany is known for producing high-quality goods, but did you know that the Germans rarely work overtime and usually leave the office at 5PM?

This video cites four reasons for why the Germans are very efficient in what they do. It’s a bit simplified, but it their core the messages are accurate.

One clearly false statement is that for Germans the path to the goal is of secondary importance. In Germany the process used to reach a goal is seen as one side of the coin, with the other side being the outcome

The voice is computer-generated, but clear. The statements about Japanese business culture are not relevant for us, at least not yet on UC.

Germans aren’t big on Small Talk

When my German girlfriend came here to New York years ago, she told me, “you are not going to believe this! I sat down at a cafe, and the waitress said ‘how are you?’ She didn’t even know me!” (a comment on YouTube)

So that’s why Germans are good at stuff, no bullshit, straight to the point. (another comment on YouTube)

This is by far my favourite episode right now. The lady with the grey sweater is HILARIOUS, she made me laugh out loud. But hey, why should we do small talk anyway? It’s a British concept and people are not obliged to conform themselves ! (yet another comment)

Interesting. Very insightful and helpful. I find that Germans sometimes feel uncomfortable talking with strangers. It appears to be the case in your video as well. But also it seems that the longer you talk to them the more comfortable and open they become. I suppose this is true anywhere you go but Germans appear to be a bit less interested in small talk. So I think persistence pays off when trying to start a conversation with Germans. (a great comment … persistence!)

More False Friends

Deutsche Welle – Languages borrow words from each other all the time. But if the meaning gets changed along the way, things can get pretty confusing. Meet the Germans presenter Rachel Stewart takes a look at some more English words that have been given a new meaning in Germany.

Rachel is on a mission to investigate the idiosyncrasies of daily life in Germany. Every two weeks she explores a new topic – from beer to nudity to complicated grammar.

Rachel moved from the UK to Germany in 2016. As a relative newcomer she casts a fresh eye over German clichés and shares her experiences of settling into German life. You’ll find more from Meet the Germans on YouTube or at

English words used wrongly

Deutsche Welle – There are lots of English words the Germans use wrongly. A German “Public Viewing” is great fun. An English public viewing? Not so much. These are typical false friends.

Rachel Stewart takes a look at some English words that have taken on a whole new meaning in Germany. Rachel is on a mission to investigate the idiosyncrasies of daily life in Germany. Every two weeks she explores a new topic – from beer to nudity to complicated grammar.

Rachel moved from the UK to Germany in 2016. As a relative newcomer she casts a fresh eye over German clichés and shares her experiences of settling into German life.